Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Stick It To The Doorknob

By: Callie Oettinger | Oct 24, 2014 12:30 am

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My neighbor called yesterday. She was in the hospital and her husband’s cell phone wasn’t working. He’d forgotten to bring a few things with him and was on his way back home to pack another bag for her. Would I pop over and ask him to grab a few extra things to bring back to the hospital?
I adore these neighbors and would do anything to help them, so I dropped what I was doing and stuck my head outside. Empty car port.
Back inside, I grabbed a sticky pad and pen and scribbled a note with the items she needed, then headed to the kitchen for a plastic bag. It was raining and I needed the note to survive. Only gallon-sized freezer bags were in the designated baggie-tin-foil-and-cling-wrap drawer. (Noted to self: Buy more sandwich-sized bags and hide from 6-year-old who hordes them for random rocks, pilfered coins, and other bric-a-brac).
No Scotch-tape in site (also most-likely claimed by the 6-year-old), I grabbed a tape gun, tucked it under my arm and headed back outside, note-stuffed gallon bag in one hand and umbrella in the other.
Not wanting to risk paint pulling from their door if I taped the note to it (and thus a call from the horrid HOA to repaint, which is the horrid HOA’s M.O.), I stared, wondering about the best placement. The door knocker made the most sense. It was centered, toward the top of the door. Because the note was in a gallon-sized plastic bag, it would hang below the knocker, at about my neighbor’s eye-level, note facing out through the clear plastic.
A few minutes after drying off inside, I heard his car. Moving faster than a TMZ informer sniffing out a payday, I stuck my head back out. The note was still on the front door as he shut it behind him.
What to do?
Did he see it and leave it because he was in a rush? Or did he tell himself he’d read it on the way out?
The Type A cloth from which I was cut demanded me back outside to double-check. I bypassed the soggy tennis shoes and pulled out my flip-flops this time, hoping they wouldn’t hydroplane over the sidewalk and land me in a puddle, grabbed the umbrella and headed back out.
At their door, I pulled off the note and knocked.
A few seconds of silence later, I could hear footsteps approaching the door.
“Hi, John. Joan called and asked me to give you this note. I just wanted to make sure you saw it.”
Furrowed brows. Pause. (Insert good-natured English-accent, because it changes things up when you read, and imagine a thick-salt-and-pepper haired 70ish fellow with a mustache and smiling eyes, too, if you’d like.) “No, I didn’t. Were you just putting it up?”
Smile. (Drop the English accent for my comments.) “No, it was on your door when you opened it.”
Laugh. Head shake. “I didn’t even see it. I was rushing and focused on getting in the door.”
I shook my head and laughed. “Men . . .”
He smiled and made a joke about running around. He and his wife have a wonderful sense of humor. He’s always teasing, and that’s the nature of our relationship—good-natured teasing, even during awful situations. Helps keep a positive outlook, though we do go straight-serious at times, too.
After an update on his wife’s health, he thanked me, and then was off again.
I walked back home, thinking about how fortunate I am to have them in my life and about how I hope she feels better soon, as my less-emotional, uncompassionate  inner Type-A made a mental note to tape future notes onto door handles instead of door knockers.
Why am I sharing this?
Because, in addition to loving my neighbors and enjoying the smile that thinking about them puts on my face as I type this, I’m also obsessed with how messages are shared.
In such a simple situation, I placed a message in what I thought was the best position: The door knocker.
There was one better: The doorknob.
Morals of the story: 1) Think about your messaging and placement. What you consider great placement — an obvious place that you can’t imagine anyone missing — might go unseen. 2) Lessons arrive at the oddest times.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

You Won't Believe What This GoPro Camera Captured Underwater

You're going to watch this video and your jaw will drop. In fact, you'll probably think it's fake. Or CGI, at least. But nope, it's completely real. A group of guys went fishing and dropped a GoPro Hero 2 camera inside a custom-made torpedo to record the ocean underneath them. What the camera recorded was the most amazing footage of dolphins you'll ever see.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Understanding Game Theory

Using Reason to Predict Future Behavior

Game Theory
When is the right time to "pounce"?
© iStockphoto/EEI_Tony
What if you could make good predictions about how competitors will respond to your actions?
What if you could take this into account BEFORE taking action to make sure that that action is in your best interest?
And better still, what if you could do this with a "scientific" method, rather than just with guess-work?
Understanding how people are likely to react to your choices is important in many areas of business.
For example, imagine that you're competing in a market with a small number of other companies. If you can anticipate their moves, then you can either remove some of their options, or beat them when they make their moves.
Game Theory gives you the tools you need to think about this.

What is Game Theory?

Game theory is a reasoned attempt to predict behavior. It applies in situations where an individual's success in making choices depends on the choices of others. Simple models include a group of players, a definition of the actions that those players can choose, and the "payoffs" (how much each player will win or lose) for each combination of actions.
John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern defined the foundations of game theory in 1944 with their classic book, "Theory of Games and Economic Behavior."

Simultaneous and Sequential Games

Situations described by game theory fall into two main categories:
  • Simultaneous move games – Here, players make their moves at the same time. Examples include the scissors-paper-stone game, or situations where competing companies launch new products at the start of a year.
  • Sequential move games – Here, players take turns making moves. These include chess, or situations where two competing companies react in turn to one another's pricing changes.
We'll look at simultaneous-move games first.
To work out what action to take, players in simultaneous-moves games need to draw up what's called a payoff table before they start. This quantifies the consequences of the different moves that the players involved could take. Using the simplest example of just two players who take just one move each, and have only two options for that move, there are four possible outcomes:
  1. Both players make Move A.
  2. Player 1 makes Move A, Player 2 makes Move B.
  3. Player 1 makes Move B, Player 2 makes Move A.
  4. Both players make Move B.
This situation can be applied to an example of two widget manufacturers, who are the only competitors in a niche market. Each currently has 50% market share, and sales of $2million a year.
With advances in component technology, it would now be possible for each of them to develop the next generation of widget, but this will cost $500,000 to bring to market.
If both develop the new widgets, the overall market will grow by 10%, as some existing customers will upgrade.
If only one develops the new widget, that company will increase its market share to 75%, but the overall market will only grow by 5% as some existing customers will stay loyal to the supplier who doesn't offer the new product.
If neither company develops the new widget, sales will remain as they are.
The payoff table for this situation (see below) shows the sales income each player would expect in the first year of each of the four possible outcomes. (Results for Company 1 are shown first, and those for Company 2 are shown second.)
Company 2 – does nothingCompany 2 – develops new widget
Company 1 – does nothing$2,000,000, $2,000,000$1,050,000, $3,150,000
Company 1 – develops new widget$3,150,000, $1,050,000$2,200,000, $2,200,000
However, the cost of developing the new widget also needs to be taken into account, so the table below removes this cost from sales figures:
Company 2 – does nothingCompany 2 – develops new widget
Company 1 – does nothing$2,000,000, $2,000,000$1,050,000, $2,650,000
Company 1 – develops new widget$2,650,000, $1,050,000$1,700,000, $1,700,000
So what should the two companies do?
Well, it's clear that the best outcome for either company would be for it to develop the new widget, and for its competitor to do nothing. But neither can know what the other will do.
If either company does nothing, it risks a large drop in income of nearly 50% if the other company develops the new product. On the other hand, if it goes ahead, it might do extremely well if the other company does nothing, or experience a relatively smaller drop in income after the cost of development, if the other company goes ahead too.
The wise option is clearly to go ahead, however managers need to be careful to prepare for the possible downsides that could occur if their competitors also develop new products. (In fact, if both competitors are analyzing the situation rationally, it's likely that both will develop the new widget, and both will see a reduction in this year's profits.)


When thinking about what your competitor will do, assume that he or she will make the best possible choice for themselves. Don't assume that their decision will be random!

The Prisoner's Dilemma

The "Prisoner's Dilemma" game is a classic example of game theory. Two prisoners are held as joint suspects in a burglary, and each is offered the following deal:
  • If neither prisoner confesses to the burglary, each will go to jail for one year.
  • If one prisoner confesses and agrees to testify against the other, but the other does not confess, then the confessing prisoner will go free, while the silent prisoner will go to jail for five years.
  • If both prisoners confess, then both will serve a prison sentence of three years.
For simultaneous-move games in general, we can create a "payoff table" that shows the different combinations of choices. The entries in the table show how much each player (prisoner) wins or loses in each case.
Our payoff table in this example is below ("-1" means a one-year jail sentence, and so on):
Prisoner 1 says nothingPrisoner 1 confesses
Prisoner 2 says nothing-1, -10, -5
Prisoner 2 confesses-5, 0-3, -3
Here's the dilemma: In theory, the prisoners' joint best interest is to both say nothing and accept one year each in jail. The problem is that neither is sure if the other will confess to avoid jail completely. So both prisoners end up confessing and serving three years, instead of just one year.

Sequential Move Games and Game Trees

For a sequential move game in which players take turns to move, one after the other, we create a "game tree" (similar to a decision tree  ) instead of a payoff matrix. A game tree starts from a single point, and then branches out into the different moves possible for the first player. Each of these possible moves then branches out again to cover all of the possible responses to that move by the second player, and so on.
Most negotiations are considered sequential-move games, and you can represent them with game trees. For example, imagine that a bakery wants to purchase a new van to make deliveries. They approach a dealer, who offers a van that meets their needs at a price of $18,000.
The bakery makes the first decision. There are three options: accept the offer, reject the offer, or ask for a better price.
In response to a rejection, the dealer can walk away or make a better offer. And in response to a request for a better price, the dealer can lower the price or walk away, and so on.
Figure 1 shows a game tree for this negotiation.
Example Game Tree
Apart from the simplest cases, game trees can quickly become complex.

Rollback Reasoning

Game trees that describe sequential-move games also let you "look forward and reason backward." This allows you see what your strategy should be now for the best chance of success in the future. This is also known as backward induction.
To determine how the game will unfold, start at the bottom of your tree, and work up, assuming that your opponent makes the best move he or she can each time. As you do, "prune" the branches of the tree that reflect losing choices. What you have left is the likely outcome of the game, assuming that neither player makes a mistake.
Looking at our simple example above, the bakery should ask for a better price, the dealer should give it, and the bakery should accept. Otherwise the dealer loses the sale, and the bakery can't deliver its bread. (Of course, this assumes – among other things – that the dealer needs the sale, and that the bakery doesn't have other, better options.)

When Games Settle into Equilibrium

In many situations (but not always), games settle into a stable situation known in game theory as a "Nash equilibrium" (named after John Nash, another major contributor in this field). In this situation, players know one another's strategies and make the best moves possible in those circumstances. Once they have made these moves, no player has any interest in changing his or her strategy.
A business example is when companies in the same market seek to maximize their profits by each choosing a specific level of output. The best output (and profit) for one company depends on the outputs of the others, so the situation stabilizes into a Nash equilibrium.

Dealing with Real Life

Game theory adapts to additional factors in real-life situations. Even if it uses mathematical formulae to predict outcomes, it also uses common sense to account for the real world. In the prisoner's dilemma, for example, the prisoners might find themselves in the same situation again, as suspects in a second burglary case. However, according to the way they acted the first time, the probabilities of how they'll act this time can change – especially if they now try to avoid errors that they made in the past.
Similarly, in thinking about businesses such as the airline industry, we can go beyond models that are limited to price changes and competitive reactions between existing airline companies. We can start to include additional possibilities – such as other competitors entering the market (low-cost airlines, for instance) or customers switching to other solutions (taking the train, teleconferencing, and so on). And certain choices that airlines make might lead to charges of price-fixing and anti-competitive practices, which can also be modeled using game theory.
You can learn more valuable tips for making the transition from technical expert to manager with our Book Insight on "What Got You Here Won't Get You There" by Marshall Goldsmith.

Key Points

Game theory helps us understand how people act and interact, whether in a business situation or a social environment. Part of game theory deals with basic ideas that you can immediately apply in real life. These include simple tables that show results (payoffs) for different choices, or tree diagrams that follow several steps of an interaction. By looking at the possible outcomes and working backward, you can choose the strategy most likely to give you the best results.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Buy Local Campaign

In the past several weeks we’ve talked about different aspects of the Buying Local concept.  This week we’ll talk about the top three things local independent business owners need to keep in mind when framing the buy local campaign.

First, make buying local a part of your brand. In the smartphone age you have about seven seconds to ‘keep up with the Kardashians.’ Your customers are bombarded with thousands of images each day and hundreds of solicitations for various products and services. You must have ‘Buy Local’ as one of the messages your customers interact with, and it must be repeated often enough that clients don’t forget it. Let the Buy Local theme be one spoke o f your squeaky wheel.

Second, make buying local worth your customers’ time. We’ve talked about the direct, indirect and induced value of local buying but the empirical value is not enough. In two words: Customer Service.  Make the 10-20% higher retail price your clients are anticipating worth the expense by offering them an experience they cannot duplicate anywhere else.

Third, COOPETITION.  There are two aspects of coopetition – the internal and the external.
Internal coopetition is readily evident in Arlington and is one of our many strengths. It can be observed in the restaurant that caters, the grocery/hardware store, the bar/bowling alley, the boutique that sells flowers online and so on.
External coopetition is a stickier proposition in Arlington. Don’t be afraid of competition, a patron is far more likely to visit a town with three boutiques than only two.  If there are more options for eating lunch people are less likely to brown bag. There are no fifth wheels in the antique trade.

Competition drives excellence, keeps prices down for both retailer and customer and encourages patronage. Competition initiates movement in the business owner, the shopper and the supplier.

Be overgenerous with helping your fellow local business owners. When a shopper purchases widget ‘X,’ suggest the complimentary gadget ‘Y’ from the shop down the street. Equally, if you don’t have widget ‘X’ tell the consumer which of your neighbors does. Tell the client where they can have some refreshment while you gift wrap their purchase.

The concept of coopetition is rooted in game theory, i.e. ‘The Prisoner’s Dilemma.’ You can explore the idea in depth if you like in Barry Nalebuff’s book Co-Opetition :A Revolution Mindset That Combines Competition and Cooperation (ISBN 0-385-47950-6).

Find some free “Buy Local’ campaign resources on

Friday, October 24, 2014

Farmer competes on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

Stacy Nick, The Coloradoan
Ian Dory has spent his life training to be on “American Ninja Warrior,” he just didn’t know it.

American Ninja Warrior - Ian Dory - Denver Finals from J Edward on Vimeo.
“I trained for a long time, so I have a good base,” Dory said. Using his skills as a rock climber, along with some encouragement from friend and “American Ninja Warrior” superstar Brian Arnold, Dory — along with fellow Fort Collins resident Noah Kaufman — can be seen beginning tonight on the Las Vegas finals of the NBC obstacle-course contest.
For the Fort Collins native, the show has given him a new opportunity to test himself.
“Being on the show has been a lot of fun and also a lot of pressure, which is something I really enjoy, that lights, camera, action,” said Dory, who excels in the strength categories but said the balance and coordination obstacles have been trickier.
“You only get one shot so if you lose your balance, it’s over,” he said.
This weekend, Dory embarked on another new challenge: the role of dad. He and his wife, Jessica, welcomed a new little ninja, Pax Robert Dory.
As for how his wife feels about the show, “she chuckled at it at first. It was like, ‘I’m going to go train with the ninjas. I’ll be back.’ But then she got really into it.”
Juggling the show with all of his other commitments — including working on his father’s farm, studying economics at the University of Colorado and coaching a Boulder competitive rock climbing club — has been tough, he said.
“I think the lifestyle of being a farmer and that there’s always some job to be done and that work ethic has transferred to my training,” he said.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Iowa Small Towns Get Greener with GE Wind Turbines

Rachel Nuwer | Mon Jun 11 2012
In rural Iowa, there’s a whole lot of corn, cows and wind turbines. Iowa is second only to Texas for spinning up renewable wind energy, with a power generation capacity of around 4,495-megawatts (MW). And, as they say, every little bit counts.
This week, residents of a pair of small Iowa towns committed to adding 9.6 MW to their grid through purchase of six additional GE 1.6-82.5 wind turbines.
Residents of Greenfield (population 2,100) and Fontanelle(population 700) spearheaded this decision. Two previously installed GE 1.5-MW wind turbines proved a success for the rural southwestern communities, so 180 locals teamed up to buy shares in the six new units. All in all, the communities will now enjoy 12.6-MW of renewable wind energy, enough to power around 3,000 households, businesses and farmsteads. The surplus energy will be sold to Central Iowa Power Cooperative, the regional power distributor.
We have a favorable climate, in the literal sense, with the wind.
Expanding the wind energy potential made a lot of sense, according to Randy Caviness, the manager of Meadow Ridge Wind Energy in Greenfield that will be powered by one of the new turbines. “We have a favorable climate, in the literal sense, with the wind,” he explains. “And number two, the State has been very supportive of it with tax incentives.”
Iowa offers a 10-year tax credit for small wind power projects generating less than 2.5-MW, and local counties provide property tax incentives for the first seven years. Each turbine generates benefits from tax credits, land lease royalty payments, property taxes and dividends. Those benefits total $1.08 million annuallyover a period of 10 years. The rewards go directly back to the community, and Caviness points out that the incentives make wind energy economically competitive with other sources of power.
Greenfield installed its first wind turbine in 2009 with the aim to generate its own sustainable power. Now, Caviness says, that goal has been met; the small town’s energy needs are fully satiated by the turbines. “I was just interested in it and wanted to become a part of that,” Caviness explains of his decision to launch a career in wind energy.
GE points to Greenfield and Fontanelle as role models for the rest of the country. “Ten percent of U.S. states generate more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind, with Iowa as one of the leaders at 19 percent,” says Vic Abate, GE’s vice president of renewable energy, in a statement. “The community wind energy initiative in Iowa represents and important model for other towns and communities to learn from.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Lunch Pail Manifesto

From: Steven Pressfield

The retro lunch pail and towering thermos on the cover of Steven Pressfield’sTurning Pro are in honor of some legendary Pros.

A Consummate Pro
Back in the analog days when the economy relied on blue collar muscle to build the modern world, Steelworkers gave everything they had to get that work done. In three shifts, twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year, hard-hatted men with lunch pails swinging from their gnarled hands passed through mill gates in Aliquippa, Baltimore, Bethlehem, Braddock, Buffalo, Chicago, Clairton, Cleveland, Gary, Homestead, Lehigh, McKeesport, Pittsburgh, Pueblo, Tuscaloosa, Steubenville, Weirton, and Youngstown among many other cities.
Without those fully stocked lunch pails, these men would never have made it through a single shift. Let alone a double.
They couldn’t duck out and drive to a fast food joint for lunch. Their Chevy Impalas were in the rank and file parking lot, five football fields away from the shop floor. Sweat-soaked and exhausted after four hours in 100+ degree heat, they had to shed twenty pounds of flame retardant asbestos clothing just to take their twenty-minute break.
What kept them going for the second half of their shifts were the two or three chipped ham sandwiches, the couple chunks of cheese, the extra donuts from breakfast and the quarter piece slab of peach pie jammed inside their pails. And, of course, a huge thermos of coffee.
Wives spent the tail end of their evenings packing their guys' pails. The best cold cuts and treats always went to dad. It was a sacred thing for a kid to see a scarred hard hat and a full lunch pail on the kitchen counter. That helmet and pail represented the indispensable tools of her father’s work—the armor to enter his chosen profession and the fuel to get him back home.
We can learn a lot from these Pros. The digital age requires just as much courage and forbearance as the analog age did. The heat of the fight has just moved from an external one to an internal one. No matter the battle, doing truthful and authentic work is exhausting.
Just like the old Steelworker lunch pails offered relief from the life threatening work in the mill, we need to pack our own symbolic lunch before we forge our work. If we do, it will get us through those days when we don't think we have another drop of sweat to give. In this spirit, we offer Turning Pro and:

The Lunch Pail Manifesto

  1. We must find the work that brings our lives meaning.
  2. We must strive to make our work purposeful, truthful, and authentic, a pure offering to our Muse and fellow human beings.
  3. We must wage a lifelong war with Resistance and accept that instant gratification is an oxymoron.
  4. We must not speak of our work with false modesty or braggadocio.
  5. We must not debase our work for short term gain nor elevate it above its rightful station to inflate our ego.
  6. We must not covet the fruits of our work, or the fruits of others’ work.
  7. We must respect others’ work and offer aid to fellow professional laborers.
  8. We must accept that our work will never be perfect.
  9. We must accept that our work will never be without merit.
  10. We must accept that our work will never cease.